Award winning landscape designer and author, Xanthe White, has been Daltons brand ambassador for over ten years. She has plenty of gardening experience and knowledge to impart to home gardeners and professionals alike. Here Xanthe shares her passion for gardening, along with tips, advice and gardening secrets even the most weathered gardener may not know.
The magic of gardens
Sometimes I feel like growing old is a bit like being a tree that’s getting taller in a forest. In the middle where I am now the view is wonderful, beautiful old trees standing tall and young saplings beneath. You can see the views beyond and still are in touch with the ground beneath but you are aware that as you keep rising, its easy to forget where you started and where your feet still stand.
You know that as you head upwards, the saplings will be further from you, that your view of the world is changing as you rise, but that inevitably one day you will fall back down into that earth and be reabsorbed into everything.
I was sent recently a picture of myself as a little girl crouched in the earth in a pretty skirt with a trowel beside me, barefoot, dirty, happy. It’s a beautiful reminder of my love for what I do. As the gardens I’m working on expand in many ways, the purpose of gardens for me can be summed up in that photo. The power of a garden to create that moment and connection for another child. A garden, be it a little patch beside the back door or a rolling estate, can change what we think about when we wake up in the morning and what we first see when we arrive home from all the other things that occupy our lives. They are where we can be quiet with ourselves and watch caterpillars grow and turn into butterflies, where we can talk with our grandparents, sniff and pick flowers or watch Tui’s return to the same branch of a tree to sing to their mate as the sun rises every morning.
While a landscape is a great beauty, it is the intimacy of our relationship with our gardens that makes them so powerful. That we notice the first flower that opens on a plant at the start of a season. That we notice the bites a caterpillar or snail has taking out of the leaves of a lettuce in our patch. These are tiny things that as gardeners become moments of action or memories. We know the scents of different times of year, what insects come and go and we watch the trees get taller that were once just sticks that we fed and watered and are now bigger than ourselves.
It’s all magic. Beauty is nature's gift to lure us into these spaces and allow us the pleasure of the minutia of life. It is also a tool to the designer to bring new gardeners into the outside world with the ultimate gift to them being that they will end up with their feet bare and planted in the earth. As the scale expands around me pulling me upwards to look at things supposedly greater, I can admire the view and see the horizon, but as I sit at my desk and draw and sketch, I am reminded to zoom in beneath the trees to make sure there is always space for that little girl to lie in the garden - well dressed and filthy, but most importantly happy.